Tag Archives: Federalism
50 States of Anxiety: Will Federalism Save Democracy in America?

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, explains why federalism—the autonomy of the states in our country—has been a significant barrier to many of the authoritarian projects Trump has advanced or considered. Falvy argues that the same autonomy should prevent Trump from manipulating the election results decisively in his own favor.

The (Unwanted) Return of Bush v. Gore and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Underappreciated Impact on the 2020 Election

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes an underappreciated influence of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—her carefully reasoned majority opinion in Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. As Dean Amar explains, in that case, Justice Ginsburg rejected nearly identical arguments to those relied on today in asking federal courts to challenge state courts’ and agencies’ rulings protecting the right of their citizens to vote as provided for under state statutes and constitutions.

The Fate of American Democracy May Depend on the Willingness of Democratic Governors to Fight Fiercely after the November 3 Election

In anticipation of a contested election outcome in November, Amherst College Associate Provost Professor Austin Sarat and attorney Daniel B. Edelman call upon Democratic governors to forward a slate of electors that reflects the preference of the greatest number of voters in their states, regardless of what their legislatures might do. Sarat and Edelman argue that the fate of American democracy may depend on these governors.

The Framers Would Have Been Appalled but Unsurprised by the President’s Failure to Get the COVID-19 Crisis Under Control: They Would Tell Him to Get Moving Now

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, criticizes the Trump administration’s failure to adequately handle the national coordination of efforts to get the COVID-19 crisis under control. Hamilton points out that the Framers of the Constitution anticipated that the country would face emergencies and intentionally consolidated power in a single President to make decisions to unify and protect the nation.

Can A City Refuse Land-Use Permits Because it Doesn’t Like the Federal Policies the Property Will be Used to Implement?

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why a local government cannot constitutionally create policy discriminating against entities that do business with the feds. Specifically, Amar discusses a situation in which the city of Farland, California, is trying to prevent a privately operated state prison facility located in that city from contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

An Important Second Circuit Ruling on Sanctuary Jurisdictions May Have Reached the Right Result, but En Route it Misread the Momentous Sebelius Supreme Court Ruling on Conditional Federal Funding to States

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Amar argues that while the Second Circuit may have arrived at the correct conclusion of law, it also misunderstood the Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius, in which the Court struck down the “Medicare expansion” provision of the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutionally coercive. Amar points out that in Sebelius, the Court found the fact that the Medicare expansion provision of the ACA vitiated the terms of a preexisting deal was sufficient to hold that provision coercive.

Trump Administration Lawyer Asserts That a State Courthouse is no Different from a Burger King

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a lawsuit in which New York State and other plaintiffs are suing the federal government over an immigration policy of arresting undocumented immigrants when they appear in state court on unrelated matters. Dorf explains why the federal judge hearing the case should reject the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Why Challenges to California’s Tax-Return-Disclosure Law Should Fail (Putting Aside Whether They Will)

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Trump administration’s recent legal challenge to California’s law that denies ballot access to presidential candidates who have chosen not to release their tax returns. Without opining as to whether that challenge is likely to succeed or whether it is a good idea for states to enact such laws, Amar explains why, as a normative matter, the arguments in favor of striking down the law are misplaced, or at the very least, overly simplistic.

Federalism and State Autonomy in Operation: Florida Bans Sanctuary Jurisdictions in the State, in Sharp Contrast to California’s Approach

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar contrasts Florida’s recent enactment of one of the strictest measures in the country to prohibit state and local entities from becoming “sanctuary” jurisdictions with California’s pro-sanctuary state laws. Amar explains this autonomy of states to enact such different laws with respect to federal laws as a product of the so-called anti-commandeering doctrine the Supreme Court has applied in three major cases over the past quarter century.

Can the Feds Subject “Sanctuary” Jurisdictions to Liability for Crimes Committed by Private Persons Who Are in the US Unlawfully?

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether the federal government can subject so-called sanctuary jurisdictions to liability for crimes committed by private persons who are in the United States unlawfully, as two Republican-backed legislative proposals seek to do. Specifically, Amar discusses whether such liability constitutes unconstitutional commandeering of states under existing Supreme Court precedent.

Why the Supreme Court Was Right to Stay out of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Districting Case, and Why State Courts Have Important Roles in this Arena

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why the US Supreme Court was right to leave undisturbed the recent congressional redistricting ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Amar describes the important role (and limitations) of state courts and state legislative bodies in our federal system.

Two (But Only Two) Jeers for Enforcing the Federal Marijuana Law in Legalized States

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent announcement by Attorney General Sessions that the Trump Department of Justice was rescinding an Obama administration policy toward state-legal marijuana. Dorf argues that the policy shift breaks promises by then-candidate Trump and then-Senator Sessions, but that objections to the new policy on federalism grounds are largely misguided.

The New Tax Law Punishes Blue States: Is That Constitutional?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether the new tax law, which disproportionally affects “blue” states as compared to “red” states due to changes to the deductions for state and local taxes (SALT), is unconstitutional. Dorf explains some of the possible arguments against the law but ultimately concludes that due to difficulties of proof, courts probably won’t end up ruling that the SALT deductibility cap violates the First Amendment or a core principle of federalism.

The Need for Clearer Understanding of the Basic Federalism Doctrines Concerning Sanctuary Cities and Other Federal-State Flashpoints

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains the federalism doctrines implicated by Attorney General Sessions’ attempt to deny funding to sanctuary jurisdictions. Amar points to lower court decisions that reflect a misunderstanding of the doctrines and calls upon federal courts and their law clerks to better understand and apply not just the nuanced technical details of various specific doctrines, but the overall federalism big picture as well.

Another New Federalism Flashpoint: State and Local Laws Targeting Entities that Assist in “Building the Wall”

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on recent actions by state and local governments to oppose federal policies, such as the immigration and the wall along the U.S.–Mexico border. Amar argues that these attempts likely run contrary to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by attempting to interfere with the execution of federal policy.

Ambitious Proposals in the States Testing Constitutional Limits of Legislative Power to Interpret the Constitution

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses several legislative proposals in various states that purport to give state legislatures power to interpret and implement the federal Constitution notwithstanding judicial rulings interpreting the same. Amar explains some of the key differences between the different proposals and why some are likely to pass constitutional muster while others are not.

Should Federalism Play a Role in the Interpretation of Civil Rights Laws?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf argues that in some contexts, consideration of states’ rights is relevant to the interpretation of federal statutes, but in other contexts—including the federal lawsuit over a transgender boy’s access to a boys’ restroom at school—principles of federalism are outweighed by other considerations. Dorf provides three examples of instances where federalism should play a role in the interpretation of federal statutes, and he explains why the transgender bathroom case differs from those instances.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more